Relaunch of literacy campaign

Reader helper Philippa Ayears with pupils Jade McLennan and Cameron Watt
Reader helper Philippa Ayears with pupils Jade McLennan and Cameron Watt
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A campaign to improve Northamptonshire’s low levels of literacy relaunches this week to coincide with the new school term.

The Telegraph and reading charity Beanstalk teamed up during the last academic year to try to find more people who would go into schools and offer youngsters one-on-one tuition.

Beanstalk is also seeking funds to help in its goal of turning around the county’s high levels of school leavers who are unable to read.

Barbara Archer, from Barton Seagrave, started volunteering at St Andrew’s School in Kettering this week.

She said she noticed the Get Northants Reading campaign which was run by the Telegraph and Beanstalk and, having recently retired, decided to get involved.

“I love reading and am passionate that children should get something out of reading and enjoy it,” she added.

“What I missed from work was not being in touch with people from all different age groups.

“I will be helping three lovely children, going in twice a week.”

And she has encouraged others to get involved in the campaign, saying: “I would say go for it. I am really looking forward to it, I think it will be really interesting.

“If you can’t read you can’t do anything. It’s really difficult to function without reading. People need to be able to benefit from it.”

Another new volunteer who signed up to help after reading about the appeal in the Telegraph, Cheryl Ayres, said she was really looking forward to starting her role at Irchester Primary School this week.

“I learnt to read at a very young age,” she said. “I had a lovely time with books when I was younger.

“If you can’t read you are on the sidelines for the rest of your life.”

Barbara and Cheryl are two of a number of new volunteer reading helpers who have signed up to join the Get Northants Reading campaign over the summer, according to Christine Thomas, Beanstalk’s volunteer services manager for Northamptonshire.

“The campaign is still continuing,” she added.

“We have got additional funding from STC charity to offer more opportunities to recruit more reading helpers.

“We are still looking for reading helpers across the whole county. What we might attract at the moment is mothers whose children are starting school. They may be available for the three hours a week. Obviously it’s still quite a rigorous process to go through.”

Beanstalk has received support from a number of organisations, including Northampton Saints RFC and Northants Cricket.

Northamptonshire County Council chairman Cllr Joan Kirkbride has also vowed to get colleagues behind the scheme, and Christine added: “The county council are still supportive. We are going to present it to full council at their next meeting.”